Representation brings a sense of value and belonging to marginalized and underrepresented communities. There are various benefits to inviting true diversity into politics, media, and leadership positions. Representation needs to grow in a direction that is completely inclusive and genuinely representative of the diversity within the United States. Members of diverse communities share different perspectives and cultures that provide a more meaningful understanding. Empowerment is achieved through genuine and accurate representation.
There is clear underrepresentation in the United States in leadership positions, which is detrimental to our society. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, 1 in 4 Americans say there are no women in leadership positions at their current job. This statistic is all too common and even lower for intersectional groups such as women of color.
There are sizable barriers blocking marginalized communities from leadership positions. The Rockefeller study also concludes that, “nine in ten Americans say that traditions of, and expectations for, male leadership in workplace cultures contributes at least somewhat to women’s lack of representation in top positions—including 69% who say it contributes highly.” Numerous other factors including the false perception of women and minorities as less effective leaders paired with the lack of support from mentors in securing top positions are detrimental to both the candidates passed up as well as the overall workplace environment.
Dr. Amber Thorton shared her experience and accredits strengthening her voice to the cultural representation that she found later in her life. The majority of her professors and classmates were white men for much of Dr. Thorton’s undergraduate and graduate education. She discussed that, “Psychology started to mean more to me when I was able to see my own values, beliefs, traditions, and social practices reflected in it.” Connecting with people who understood her perspective and had overlapping struggles provided strength and guidance as she continued her career in psychology.
There are long lasting and harmful effects resulting from the lack of diversity in leadership positions. One idea that is perpetuated by the lack of representation is that success is only attainable for a particular type of individual, who is all too often a white, heterosexual male. A lack of reflection of oneself in politics, media, or even workplaces can cause a loss of motivation and discouragement in all arenas. When decisions related to hiring and promoting rely on implicit and explicit biases, individuals that are passed up can lose confidence in themselves as well as in their dreams and goals.
While there is undoubtedly more room to grow, accurate representation is more prevalent in the political sphere. Earlier this November, 99 LGBTQ+ candidates won elections across the
country. A statement from Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, captured the true importance of representation, “as one of the first openly LGBTQ Muslims elected in United States history, N.J. Akbar will become a role model for so many LGBTQ students, students of color and Muslim students who too rarely see people like them in positions of power.” Increased representation for all underrepresented groups will inspire individuals and communities because people will be able to see themselves reflected positively in cities and towns across the United States.
Macroaggression is defined as “large scale or overt aggression toward those of another race, culture, gender, etc.” Macroaggression is deep rooted in workplaces throughout America. When mixed with a lack of representation, the mental health of marginalized communities is under attack. People of Color and members of the LGTBQ+ community are in a cycle of defeat, which is absolutely exhausting and culminates in severe mental scars.
Ayana offers online therapy to individuals who are continually passed up and feel defeated because of the barriers in the way of success. Ayana wants to embolden people and offer mental health access they are entitled to. Equity is required everywhere and mental health care is no exception. Ayana works with universities and corporations to offer much needed support to students and employees resulting in transformations in school and office cultures.
Ayana aims to reflect the values of underrepresented communities by offering culturally competent and diverse therapists. We believe that People of Color, LGBTQ+, and disabled communities are entitled to feeling completely understood and empowered. Ayana connects people from such marginalized communities with therapists that share their values because mental health is foundational for success.